Introductions to the Collections

My first week on my placement was very busy and I met some incredible people. I spent Tuesday at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts with the Learning and Access team. I spent the morning assisting in a children’s art class, in which the children drew architectural buildings based on some works in the gallery. I attended a gallery talk in the afternoon which focused on the same paintings that had been utilised in the children’s art class, so it was great to see how the collections are used and appreciated by different visitors to the gallery. My project for the next few weeks at the Barber Institute will be at compile teacher’s packs which provide information on art works in the collection for teachers to discuss with their students before they see them in the gallery. I will also plan some activities that relate to the works.

On Wednesday I spent the morning with Clare Marlow from the Research and Cultural Collections department. We attempted to clean a marble sculpture in the Cadbury Research Library that will be used by a resident artist in their artwork. The sculpture has developed some severe discolouration and blotching, possibly from the previous application of cleaning agents. Unfortunately, the cleaning methods we tried were not successful and other more time consuming methods will be required, either by poulticing the stains or through the use of laser cleaning techniques.

On Wednesday afternoon I met with the director of the Lapworth Museum of Geology, Jonathan Clatworthy. The Lapworth has recently had a major renovation and upgrade of facilities. Jonathan and I discussed the planning, design and building processes that have resulted in the the wonderful outcome of the new museum. Jonathan showed me through the galleries, education center, storage areas and archives. We discussed some of the collection management and conservation issues that affect geological collections. I am very excited about working with this collection, as I am very interested in the conservation of natural history collections and keen to develop new skills in preventive conservation for geological collections.

On Thursday morning I met with Marie Sviergula and Sarah Kilroy, who work in the conservation laboratory at the Cadbury Research Library. The library is situated in the Muirhead Tower, an iconic brutalist building. Sarah showed me around the department and collections stores, and we discussed conservation issues affecting large libraries and archives. She showed me some of the highlights of the collection, which contains many rare books, manuscripts, archives and photographs. The collection holds approximately 200,00 rare books, which date from 1471 and around 4 million manuscripts. They have a fantastic climate controlled storage facility to house the collection. Marie gave me an introduction to their preventive conservation measures, including their disaster preparedness plan, integrated pest management system and climate monitoring.

Thursday afternoon was spent with Clare Marlow at the Redmarley, the building where the Research and Cultural Collections team are based. Clare introduced me to the collection management software they use, MIMSY. I will be gaining more experience in the use of the database in the coming weeks as I catalogue their collections of Hans Schwarz artworks.

I am very fortunate to have been introduced to the 2017 Cultural Interns this week. Each of these 10 interns are recent graduates from the University of Birmingham. They are placed at a cultural institution in Birmingham for a 6-month internship in order to increase their knowledge and skills. This is a wonderful initiative and a fantastic way for recent graduates to gain much needed experience in the cultural sector. I had recently met one of these interns, Particia Nistor, in Melbourne when she was there for an internship, so it was great to be able to meet up with her again on the other side of the world! I went for dinner with the Cultural Interns on Tuesday and Wednesday night this week, and we went to some cultural events. On Tuesday evening we saw Jess Thom’s ‘Welcome to Biscuit Land’ and on Wednesday we went to the Birmingham Storytelling Cafe. It was so great to be able to make some new friends and connections in a new city.

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